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Showing posts from 2014

A Christmas miracle

I was sixteen when my father left. That year there was no Christmas tree, no turkey dinner, no presents.  My mother worked two jobs as a cleaning lady.  I sold hats at the Emporium in downtown Saint Paul. It was Christmas Eve, 1965. The store was closed.  The streetlights were decorated with the tinsel of the season.  Somewhere a church bell tolled "Silent Night." I stood alone on the corner and waited for the bus to take me home. The wind whipped my thin coat and threatened to tear off my hand-knit hat.  My mother had sewn a pair of corduroy pants to pull up under my dress, but I carried them.  It was better to freeze than look ridiculous. It was a snowless night, bitter and empty.  I shivered against the wind and considered how one year had changed everything. My parents' marriage was over.  My home and heart were broken. The divorce did not surprise anyone but me.  My father's fierce anger had exhausted my mother's forbearance years ago.  But

Thanks, but no Thanksgiving for me

Thanksgiving is a holiday without a heart.  A feast without a focus. Forget the hoopla about "gratitude" for good health, good fortune, good families, good jobs. Let's get real. We're together for two reasons;  to watch football and eat turkey. Too much turkey. Never eat food with a face.   "Turkeys have faces. Sweet, sad little faces." Not at my house, however. My daughter was only in second grade when her teacher organized a field trip to a local turkey producer. The experience changed her life. "Turkeys have faces," she said when she came home.   "Sweet, sad little faces." She couldn't spell "vegetarian." But she was one. Bad mommy.  Bad, bad mommy.  I was a single mother, and not that good at it. While other mothers relied on family recipes for turkey dressing, I roasted a bland, milky brown tofurkey, stewed wild rice, baked gluten free pumpkin pie. I was determined to seduc

Tears on the job? Five strategies to buck-up

The undertrained thirty-something supervisor sat ram-rod behind her desk, hands folded on her lap. "You ever hear of 'employment at will?" she asked,  her right eyebrow raised for punctuation. My undertrained supervisor  I smiled and allowed her to rattle on. "'Employment at will' means I don't have to work with you if I don't want to.  I can fire you any time I want and I don't need a reason." My heart pounded.  She had no reason to fire me, but would she?  Had I screwed up?  Failed her? Failed the company? My family? Myself? I said  nothing.  My stomach tightened.  My jaw clenched. Oh, how I hate it when I cry at work. Humiliation is never a "teaching moment."  I've read the essays written by the consultants who promise it's okay to cry on the job. The shedding of workplace tears demonstrates passion for work.  And our emotional outburst helps your supervisor grow into more compassionate, caring leader

Why I no longer trust the St. Paul Police

(After Fox Network covered this story, my blog was "hacked" and the link to this post removed.  I post it again, here, with a live link.  If the message was censored by the St. Paul Police, I would not be surprised.)  My dogs awoke me,  barking,  at 3:00 AM -  and I knew something was wrong. I grabbed my under-the-bed baseball bat and stormed into my backyard. The car next door had been burglarized; a neighbor's garage broken into. And the woman who lives in the house behind mine was robbed in the middle of the night. And so as the flood lights slapped across my empty back yard and my dogs growled, I determined to apprehend the culprit. I searched the yard for the wretched, evil doer who would dare take advantage of the decent folks who live in Como Park. Behind me, in my living room, someone walked out the front door with my MacBook and other electronics. Because I didn't check inside the house - I didn't discover the crime until the next morning. "

Halloween is for bullies too

My brother said the Wilnut kids had head lice and I believed him. Scab-crusted and grubby, they patrolled my neighborhood like a pack of wolves. If it wasn't nailed down, the Wilnuts stole it. If you had pride in something, they destroyed it. In summer they took bikes, scooters and roller skates off our front porches.  They broke into our garages and set our pinewood derby chugs on fire. In winter they urinated on our snow forts and trashed our front yard snowmen. It was Dickie Wilnuts who threw Cathy Fletcher's kitten under the wheels of Mr. Mannering's Edsel on a cold, October morning. And Diane Wilnuts who cut down the apple trees in Mr. Key's back yard. None of us ever knew how many Wilnuts lived in the beat-up mansion on Lexington Avenue.  Mrs. Wilnuts was always pregnant, and every Wilnut kid looked like the last - redheaded and covered in bruises. My mom called them "ragamuffins and hoodlums." Today she'd call them "b

Top five reasons to enjoy being an old, invisible woman

I wasn't always invisible. Once upon a time I was a  show-stopping "looker,"  a major babe. Young, lovely, blonde and adorable,  people (especially men)  paid close attention to how I looked, what I said,  how I moved. Then - I grew old and became invisible. I wish I could tell you it happened in stages.  It didn't.  It happened on my fiftieth birthday The day before I was young, interesting, important.  The next -  I was invisible. Overnight - I became someone people overlooked, ignored.  I spoke, and no one responded.  I entered a room and no one (especially men) noticed. I  turned fifty - and joined the community of invisible women. Being old is not a curse.  It's a blessing.  The transition took some adjusting.  For the past fifteen years I've been managing my new status.  And now, I don't mind aging at all.  In fact, I think I'm doing well at the entire endeavor. I don't mind living in the shadows either.  I welcome the

The honey wind - remembrance of Grand Marais, Minnesota

"Somehow my world and I have grown just a little bit older." " The honey wind blows  and the days grow colder.   Somehow my world and I have grown just a little bit older.  I sit alone and the fire glows.  The fire glows- and the honey wind blows.  I sit alone - and the good Lord knows -  I miss you so when the honey wind blows." - Lyrics by Glenn Yarbroug h The full moon surprised me.  It always does when I visit Lake Superior's North Shore in autumn.  I never think of the moon when I'm in the city.  But here,  on the rocks in Grand Marais, it cannot be ignored. I spread a blanket and sit.   I brought my husband to these shores. When I was young and married, my husband and I spent every summer here.   We made mistakes in those days   - I'm certain. But on these rocks with October wind in my face, I can't remember a single one. One of the joys of aging is this; bitterness, emptiness and anger fade with the advance of

Why I no longer trust the St. Paul Police

My dogs awoke me,  barking,  at 3:00 AM -  and I knew something was wrong. I grabbed my under-the-bed baseball bat and stormed into my backyard. The car next door had been burglarized; a neighbor's garage broken into. And the woman who lives in the house behind mine was robbed in the middle of the night. And so as the flood lights slapped across my empty back yard and my dogs growled, I determined to apprehend the culprit. I searched the yard for the wretched, evil doer who would dare take advantage of the decent folks who live in Como Park. Behind me, in my living room, someone walked out the front door with my MacBook and other electronics. Because I didn't check inside the house - I didn't discover the crime until the next morning. "This ain't CSI, lady."  I phoned the police at 7:30 A.M. It took him almost an hour to get to my home - and when he finally knocked -  I opened my door to an overweigh, winded officer. By then I was frant

Why Religion majors make bad pastors

My college required we each enroll in one"religion" class per semester. Some of us got hooked. We were the kids who majored in Religion. And so it came to pass that in those days, a great many well intended, thoughtful men (mostly men) and women opted out. Instead of exploring the philosophies and or histories of our collective civilization, we studied Paul's original Greek when he established the 1st Century church in Corinth. Stuff like that. As a consequence, at graduation, we weren't fit for much - other than a life in parish ministry. So off we went - in droves - to seminary. The "Yikes!" factor When we broke into the congregations, we discovered the obvious. No one cared about Jesus' Hebraic roots.  No one was moved by our facility with first Century Greek. Instead, we were the ones "moved." We encountered real people with real jobs, real lives - with real problems. Husbands and wives who hated each other. Lost c

How solitaire made me normal

When I was four-years-old, I was a little  (how shall I put this?) schizophrenic. I talked to numbers. They were my friends -  and each had a distinct, particular personality. For example - number One was an only child, growing up on Summit Avenue. His father was number  Fourteen,  who didn't believe in God. The wife of Six.  Six, if I recall,  was married to Miss Francis from Ding-Dong School. Ricky Ricardo loved Nine.  He almost married her, but Lucy came along - and ruined everything. Numbers were my playmates.  I still remember when Five, Seven and I put pennies on the rail-road track near the Dunlap Avenue Short Line. After the train passed, we knew we couldn't  keep the flattened souvenirs - my mother would have beat the daylights out of us for playing in the ravine. Instead, we sold them to Eight and Ten; a couple of red heads growing up in an over-crowded duplex on Lincoln Avenue. How many kids in the house?  Beats me. I didn't know